A 2nd Reformation Post
My fellow Theophiliacs have entered some fantastic posts on our second reformation of the Christian church. These writings should not be misconstrued as rebellious rants by prideful know it alls, but a desperate plea to grasp hold of the fantastic entity that we love, the church. I believe the church is the first and last great hope of the world. Posts written against the church establishment should be considered as loving critiques of what I know as my true family – an eternal family. As I write, I wonder how the greater audience of the faith would receive these posts. Are we family still, in mind as in spirit? I hope to provoke reaction through my writing, reaction toward a forward movement; that we might meet somewhere in the middle of what is and what (I believe) should be.
Gilligan’s Island vs. Lost
I have had the pleasure of singing the tune “the Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle” while working the past few days and found myself thinking upon the show’s curiously comical portrayal of catastrophic events. The story is comprised of ridiculous characters whom undergo unlucky events, leading them to live in seclusion on a luscious island in relative peace until they are rescued. Contrast this with the show Lost: a larger group of people undergoes comically unfortunate events and is massacred to near extinction with no hope of peaceful rescue.
Now, Gilligan’s Island is meant to be a comedy show, maintaining individuals who are thriving in their makeshift community through succession of leadership, sexual tension and charisma. As conflict arises, the perky crowd finds a way to survive their formidable odds while melodramatizing each of their character’s idiosyncratic niches. The show was famous when it came out in the late 60s, then became all the more popular as it was thrown in the netherworld of syndication. What I find so fascinating about the show is how unappealing it is to me. These characters undergo struggle but struggle that never confronts the character’s ego itself (ego in the fullest sense: of person, not pride). Thus, a relatively shallow but fun series of plotlines flow variably unnoticed as the lore of the Island goes on nearly the same as it began. Episodes act relatively separate from one another, not affecting each plotline as the next episode airs.
Lost is a world of conflict and chaos. Though I hate the show for its endless rollercoaster ride, I am completely captivated by the intensity of the concurrent episodes as they all build to a never-ending climax of nail biting conflict. Characters grow increasingly complex, being thrown apart from their stereotypes and either progress through complete change in intent and goal or regress back into their despairing stereotype as their personal conflict eats them alive. Episodes cannot be missed. One episode drastically affects the lore of the following. Characters constantly die, are reborn, appear as ghosts, or are discovered (yes on a desolate island).
A Sign of the Times
Though the plot of Gilligan’s Island is far more plausible than that of Lost, the characters and their conflict are far less realistic in their journey. In Lost, realistic characters have realistic reactions to unrealistic scientific and phenomenal occurrences. Amazing how pop-culture has changed! The happy-go-lucky attitude of the Brady’s, The Gilligan Island crew and the Partridge Family is not popular in my generation of Heroes, Lost and 24. Reality strikes as oddly important, even in unrealistic situations.
Here’s the point: The church attempts to thrive in a Bradyesque façade. A mentality of ‘passing the peace’ and pasting on a smile for skin-deep reflection is not connecting with incoming generations of people. So I have scripted an unrealistic scene to aggravate a realistic response:
(Pastor gets up)
Pastor Reverend Guy: “Good morning everybody. Before you take your seats please take a moment to tell the person to your right what went wrong with you this week, don’t hold back. And when you receive this unfortunate news, person on the left, make plans to assist the person on your right in attending to this conflict before the week ends. Oh, and if you don’t, please don’t come back.”
(congregation pulls out their phones)
I believe this type of interaction gets down to the “nitty gritty” of what the church is about – people. The church is not about checkbooks, mission trips, the building fund (and the building itself) or the sermon. Church is the raw interactions of people. We share in the phenomenal story of a god-man and must begin to unfold in this rising storyline.
Institution vs. Community
I have only been part of a few churches consistently through my life. In my experiences, most of the energy and upkeep of the church has been spent in the organizing of pastoral funds, building maintenance, decorations, entertainment and the upkeep of the political structure of the church/pastoral staff. A very small amount of time is spent in the actual ‘doing’ and ‘being’ of the community. I went to church and heard a sermon, I went to church and played piano (poorly), I went to church and sang songs. The number of times I suffered, rejoiced or actually communed with people was vastly outweighed by the time spent unrolling cords, planning lessons, listening to ‘grow your ministry seminars’ and the rest.
I would like to contrast this with my relationship with my fellow Theophiliacs. I love each of these men like a brother. I know, right now, what they are doing, what they have been doing, what we are suffering through together. I devote time and money, showing my love and admiration for each one of them in expressions of that love. In our meeting and corresponding we have been what true church is, a church I have rarely known. Moreover we have made it our point to be just that: not seeking some political esteem, not spending endless hours on entertainment, but together worshipping in our truest form of the body of Christ.
When I say ‘raw’ interactions, I am not attempting to construe each moment spent within a church community as a crying, jumping or slain-in-the-spirit occurrence. The point is, the bridal of pretense needs to be thrown away. To be in a community we must ‘be’, castigating image and superiority.
The Rockstar & The Fans
The church institution has lost sight of community. We have become so thoroughly dependent upon the ‘rockstar on stage’ we have become the audience. This attention off of the community and on to a single person seems to pull us even further off the path to being together. So I throw out a question to you, dear reader, as I have to my friends and family. Why do we need a pastor? When I write ‘pastor’ I mean the word defined in the modern American sense – a man paid a salary to work in a church writing sermons, counseling people and administrating the goings on of the church. The reason I ask the question is two fold: 1. I believe the community suffers in this setup 2. I believe the individual acting as pastor suffers in this setup. First a congregation is providing the finances for an individual to do what a counselor, a professor and a rockstar can all do better (and often for less money). Second, Pastors become burned out performing the jobs needing to be practiced by the community as a whole. Why does a ‘Pastor’ do all the pastoral work? The church should accomplish the work of the church. Pastors spend their 40 hours in a church building, around people who are ‘not’ swearing, drinking, fornicating, stealing, or dumping their horrible mess-of-a-life all over each other. An individual who does not relate with their social setting leads the community. Is it any wonder why ministers advertise a ‘relevant’ church? If the church were relevant, it wouldn’t need to be advertised. Reality is, people do swear, steal, fornicate, drink and dump their horrible lives all over each other – let us do it openly, the pretense of holiness is falsity.
The church is the salvation of the world. Our enormous monetary capacity should be a means of spreading the good news. We have a mortgage crisis. If the church were to take part in paying for the mortgages of the church, how would that affect the mortgage crisis? Would the church need to advertise to seek attendees? Would single mothers have to worry about paying for an education, for childcare, if the church paid it for them?
Months ago, we discussed the Assemblies of God and their current struggle in maintaining doctrinal distinctive and social construct in lieu of a younger generation that distanced themselves from these conflicts. I raise the question to us a the church, is the community we serve less valuable than the systems we put in place? Are we so infallible we will die on a superior hill? Humility and openness is a much more loving message than tolerance and superiority.
People of the Book vs. People of God
I have struggled with idolatry since my acceptance of Jesus as my Lord. The worst of my idols was not money, women or a muscular physique (no surprise there) but the bible. In my time as a Jesus-follower I have spent less time praying, worshipping and ‘being’ with my creator and Lord than I have attempting to excavate my bible. With all the polemics to be argued, predestination vs. free will, once saved always saved, initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, exorcisms, homosexuality, feminism, et al. I continue to forget the whole point – our Lord.
I believe this all stems from a problematic symptom of logical positivism (which I will discuss in a later post) in philosophy and religion; all which have been the response of the western church to the enlightenment. We seek out bibles, squirming for answers to problems, when we need to go to our creator with our problems. Our bible has become our western god – perfect, faultless, without blame or error, never deceiving but giving us complete and absolute truth. The mechanics of this problem are for another time, but the reality of this problem has everything to do with our lack of faith in the redeemer-god and our all-consuming pride.
A person of god doesn’t need to know the answers or scour the bible to find their Lord. It is about time churches wrote on their marquees “A God-Believing Church”, or Doctrinal Statements begin with belief in the creator, rather than the evidentiary recitation of the book from which cookie cutter answers come from. Fides Quaerens Intellectum can only be begin when Fides Est Prima.
The act of being is pathetic, fragile and painful. This is the reality of our human existence. So let us strive to be people of god. Let our aim be communing with our creator as well as one another.
Humanity struggles with its individual verses communal capacities. In this sense, the golden rule stands out as the qualitative mandate for relinquishing ourselves from our social inferiority. When a community attempts to act separate from its culture, it cannot be the church. A church must entrench itself deep within people, revealing the dirt and grime of humanity in our path of salvation.